CONCORD — About 2,200 children who attend schools in the Monument Corridor will receive their only holiday gifts this year from strangers.
Scraping to make ends meet, their parents will not have enough money to buy toys and treats for them. Dozens of other children, teens and adults in the community are trying through Concord's Monumental Toy Drive to provide at least one toy to every 5- to 10-year-old who receives a free or reduced-price lunch at six elementary schools.
But the toy drive, which ends today, has not attracted as many donations as organizers had hoped. The need this year is greater than ever, rising by about 400 children since last year, when 1,800 students received gifts, said Julie Flowers, who is coordinating the drive.
"We could be in trouble," Flowers said. "I believe that I may have enough for one gift per student, but we normally give two gifts per student. I need help."
The drive is one of many involving district schools. Throughout the Mt. Diablo district, students in schools are donating toys and food to those in need. Several schools, including Holbrook Elementary in Concord, contribute to the toy drive each year. Woodside Elementary in Concord is holding a holiday food drive for the Monument Crisis Center, which distributes food, gifts, diapers and household items to needy families.
Glenbrook Middle School in Concord hosted a community dinner Wednesday, feeding 140 people, including about 80 students, said Eric Wood, a teacher and after-school program coordinator.
"Two years ago, we decided that the majority of our kids might not have a traditional turkey dinner," Wood said. "Through the donations of our teachers and stores like Lunardi's, we put together a dinner."
Student Alisi Alofaki, 13, said she enjoyed the meal and helped decorate for the event.
"It was good that our whole community could come and have dinner at our school," Alisi said, adding she also appreciates the school's penny drive to help others. "We're just collecting for people in need because sharing is caring."
Glenbrook and several other district schools also collected canned goods for the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano. Walnut Acres Elementary in Walnut Creek reaches out to Shore Acres Elementary families in Bay Point each year, collecting gently used clothing for adults and children.
Several schools are also participating in "One Warm Coat" Drives, while others are sending care packages to overseas soldiers. At some campuses, staff members are asking that students give their holiday gifts to needy families, rather than to them. Flowers said many high school students are helping to wrap and distribute gifts tfor the toy drive."People really want to help," she said. "It's the community coming together to help everybody."
Theresa Harrington covers the Mt. Diablo school district. Reach her at 925-945-4764 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Unwrapped toys and monetary donations can be dropped off today at:
More information is at 925-671-3396 or www.ci.concord.ca.us